tv Iran- Contra Investigation Day 23 CSPAN July 8, 2017 10:00pm-10:32pm EDT
>> about 30 years ago on july 7, 1987, former national security council staff member lieutenant colonel oliver norton, a marine in vietnam veteran, appeared before the house and senate committees discussing the iran-contra affair. this is the first of his days of testimony in the secret arms sales to iran and governing of money to the rebels overthrowing the nicaraguan government. the degree of oversight of his actions by his superiors. a the next on -- up next, full day of oliver north's testimony. >> before proceeding of the hearing, the chair wishes to make the following announcement. pursuant to the rules of the house and senate select
committees, and almost overrides overruled by either one of the committees, the member of the panel presided has and will continue to preside, act, and make rulings on behalf of both committees. rise.l north, please do you solemnly swear that in the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god? lt. col. north: i do. sen. inouye: please be seated. colonel north, were you involved in the use of the proceeds of sales and weapons to iran for the purpose of
assisting the contras in nicaragua? lt. col. north: on advice of counsel, i respectively declined to answer the question based on my fifth amendment rights. >> you are appearing in pursuant to subpoenas issued. i hereby communicate to you orders by the u.s. district court or the district of columbia at the request of the committees providing that you may not refuse to provide any evidence to these committees on the basis of your privilege against self-incrimination and providing further that no evidence or the information obtained under the of or any information obtained directly or indirectly from such evidence may be used against you in any such criminal proceeding. i therefore, pursuant to such workers, direct you to answer
the questions spoke to you. i communicate a similar order by the house select committee, which is also at the witness table. and i too direct you to answer the questions put to you. >> we understand that colonel north is here pursuant to compulsions and subpoenas issued by both the house and senate. is that correct? sen. inouye: you are correct. mr. neilds: colonel north, you were involved in two operations of great significanc to the people of this country. lt. col. north: at least two, yes. mr. neilds: one involved the support of the contras, and another involved the sale of arms to iran. is that correct? lt. col. north: yes, and it also involved support for the democratic outcome in nicaragua both before and after it was in
effect. mr. neilds: and these operations were carried out in secret? lt. col. north: we hope so. mr. neilds: they were covert operations. lt. col. north: yes they were. mr. neilds: and covert operations are designed to be secrets from our enemies. that is correct. mr. neilds: but these operations were designed to be secrets from the american people. lt. col. north: i am at a loss as to how we can announce it to the american people and not have the soviets not know about it. i am not trying to be flippant. i don't see how you can possibly do it. >> you believe that the soviets were aware of our sales to iran, weren't you? lt. col. north: we came to a point in time when we were concerned about that. >> but it was designed to be kept a secret from the american people. lt. col. north: i think what is
we somehows that arrive at some kind of an understanding here and now as to what a covert operation is. if we could find a way to insulate with a mobile over these hearings -- bubble over these hearings broadcast in moscow and talk about covert operations without it getting into the hands of our adversaries, i am sure we would do that. >> but you put it somewhat differently to the iranians with whom you were negotiating on the eighth and ninth of october in frederick, germany, didn't you? -- frankfurt, germany, didn't you? you said that secretary of defense weinberger, in our last session with the president said, i don't think we should send one more screw until we have our americans back from beirut. because when the american people find out that this has happened, they will impeach you, referring
to the president. >> objection. >> counsel is reading from a transcript of a tape recording which colonel north may have caused to be made. we have not been provided with a copy of that material. i think it is inappropriate for questions to be asked to the kernel when counsel has a copy of the tape and we do not have it. mr. nields: colonel north does have a copy of it. it was sent to him over the weekend and it is in a notebook in front of counsel. >> well fine, thank you mr. nields. as i walked in the door i was handed all of these notes that i'm looking at for the first time. do you want to direct my attention to where it is sir? mr. nields: the notebook titled second transcripts.
could you help us out mr. nields ? do i begin reading on tab 5 or the page behind it? mr. nields: right on tab 5. did you tell the iranians, that the secretary of defense had told the president at his most recent meeting when the american people find out that this has happened, they will impeach you? that is the entire question. did you say that to the iranians? >> does it say that on this page, sir? mr. nields: yes, at the very top. >> mr. nields, this is apparently one of the transcripts of tape recordings that i caused to be made of my discussions with the iranians.
i would like to note that for every conversation, whenever it was possible, i ask for the assistance of our intelligence services to tape record and transcribe every single session theret when i return, would be no doubt as to what i said. i'm the one who created these tapes, plus the seven hours of tape recordings that your committee found yesterday, because i knew where they were. i kept trying to alert you to them. i created those tapes so that there would never be any doubt in the minds of my superiors as to what i said or why i said it. that is a boldfaced lie told to the iranians. i would have offered the iranians a free trip to disneyland if we could have gotten americans home for it. mr. nields: the question is, did you say it? lt. col. north: i did say it. i said a lot of other things to the iranians. mr. nields: and when a hostage
claim went down in nicaragua, the u.s. government told the american people that the united states government had no connection whatsoever with that airplane. is that also true? when thenorth: airplane went down i was in the air headed for europe, so i don't know if the initial statements and i cannot comment. >> who and when? did someone in the government generally make a statement? yes sir. >> i think we would make more progress if he asked what the colonel did, what he heard in respect to his actions. a statement indicating what someone in the american government has said seems to be a little far afield. that is my,.
-- my comment. mr. nields: that was not true, was it colonel north? it is not true that the americans have no connection. lt. col. north: i had an indirect connection with that flight. others i would point out. mr. nields: in certain communist countries the government's activities are kept secret from the people. but is not the way we do things in america, is it? >> counsel, i would like to go back to what i said a few moments ago. i think it is very important for the american people to understand that this is a dangerous world, that we live at risk, and that this nation is at risk in a dangerous world, and that they ought not led to believe as a consequence of these hearings that this nation cannot or should not conduct covert operations. by their very nature, covert
operations or special activities are a lie. deceptionreat deceit, practiced in the conduct of covert operations. they are, at essence, a lie. we make every effort to deceive the enemy as to our intent, our conduct, and to deny the association of the united states with those activities. the intelligence committees hold hearings on all kinds of these activities conducted by our intelligence services. the american people ought not be led to believe by the way you are asking that question that we intentionally deceived the american people, or have that intent to begin with. the effort to conduct these covert operations was made in such a way that our adversaries would not have knowledge of them, or that we could deny american association with them,
or association of this government with those activities. and that is not wrong. mr. nields: the american people were told by this government that our government had nothing to do with the airplane. and that was false. and it is a principal purpose of these hearings to replace secrecy and deception with disclosure and truth. and that is one of the reasons we have called you here, sir. and one question the american people would like to know the answer to, is what did the president know about the divergence of the proceeds of iranian arms sales to the contras? can you tell us what you know about that, sir? lt. col. north: as i told this committee several days ago, and
if you will indulge me in a brief summary of what i said, i never personally discussed the profitshe residuals or from the sale of u.s. weapons to iran for the purpose of supporting the nicaraguan resistance. i never raised it with him, and he never raised it with me during my entire tenure at the national security council staff. throughout the conduct of my entire tenure at the national security council, i assumed that the president was aware of what i was doing and had, through my superiors, approved it. i sought approval of my superiors for everyone of my actions and it is well documented. assumed when i had approval to proceed from either george clark -- judge clark or admiral
poindexter that they had indeed solicited and obtained the approval of the president. to my recollection, admiral poindexter never told me that he met with the president on the issue of using residuals from the iranian sales to support the nicaraguan resistance or that he discussed the residuals or profits for use of the contras with the president, or that he got the president's specific approval. nor did he tell me that the president had approved such a transaction. but again, i wish to reiterate that throughout i believe that the president had indeed authorized such activity. with whom i was in contact with during my tenure at the white house told me that he or she ever discussed the issue of the residuals or
profits with the president. in late november, two other things occurred which relate to this issue. about friday, november 21, i asked admiral poindexter directly, does the president know? he told me he did not. and on november 25, the day after i was reassigned back to the u.s. marine corps for service, the president of the united states called me. in the course of that call, the president said to me words to the effect that, i just didn't know. those are the facts as i know themm. i was glad when you introduced this that he said you wanted to hear the truth. i came here to tell you the truth. the good, the bad, and the ugly.
i am here to tell it all, pleasant and. unpleasant and i am here to accept responsibility for that which i did. i will not accept her sponsor of the four that which i did not do. >> may i make an inquiry of the witness? was that response from a written text? lt. col. north: those are from notes that i made in preparation for this session, sir. sen. inouye: it is not a verbatim written text? lt. col. north: no it is not. mr. nields: colonel north, you left something out, didn't you? what is this council? you have testified that you assumed that the president had authorized the divergent. lieutenant colonels in the marine corps do not divergent millions of dollars from arms sales to iran for the benefit of the contras based on
assumptions, do they? you had a basis for your assumption. lt. col. north: i had to the approval of my superiors, as i did for all the other things i did. mr. nields: you had something else, you have a specific reason for believing that the president had approved -- you wrote memoranda, did you not, seeking the president's approval for the diversion? lt. col. north: i did. mr. nields: and indeed you wrote more than one of them. lt. col. north: i did. mr. nields: how many did you write? lt. col. north: again, i will estimate there may have been as many as five. again, i am trying to recall without access to this particular documents. mr. nields: and these five were written on each occasion where there was a proposed sale of
arms to the iranians that you felt had reached sufficiently final form to seek the president's approval? lt. col. north: yes. mr. nields: and the first one was in february or january of 1986, is that correct? lt. col. north: as i recall it was. one in the exhibit leftook to mr. sullivan's -- >> which book sir? mr. nields: book one, exhibit one.
do you have that in front of you colonel north? lt. col. north: i have exhibit one. mr. nields: that is a draft, is it not, of the kind of document you were just referring to? lt. col. north: yes. mr. nields: and on page five, at is end of that draft, there recommendation, and the recommendation is that the president approve the structure depicted above under the terms of reference at tab a, and it has a line for approved and a place to check and
disapprove and a place to check. lt. col. north: that is correct. mr. nields: that is the kind of memorandum you just testified about. lt. col. north: yes it is. mr. nields: this is a draft, but i think you just testified on five different occasions you put one of these drafts in final form. lt. col. north: it is my recollection that each time we prepared to conduct one of those transactions, and not all of them went through to fruition -- there were only three that transpired during the time that i was supervising this activity -- but it is my recollection that there were probably five times total that we actually got to a point where we thought, one, that the sale would take place, and number two, that we would have the hostages and dialogue with the iranians as a consequence. mr. nields: you sent those memoranda up the line?
lt. col. north: it is my recollection that i sent each one of those up the line. and on the three where i had approval to proceed, i thought i had received authority from the president. i want to make it very clear that no memorandum ever came back to me with the president's initials on it or the president's name on it, or a note from the president on it. none of these memorandum. i know in the files you have of mine, many of my memorandum have the president's initials on them, but none of these had the president's initials on them. mr. nields: we will get back to that in a minute colonel north. my question right now is, you sent these memoranda up to the national security adviser, is that correct? lt. col. north: that is correct. mr. nields: for him to obtain the president's approval. frequently you would send
memoranda to the national security adviser seeking his approval for something. is that correct? lt. col. north: judging by the pile of paper you sent me, i obviously sent too many. but yes i sent memoranda to my boss. mr. nields: seeking his approval? lt. col. north: yes. mr. nields: with a line under the heading recommendation. and sometimes you sent memorandum up the line with a recommendation that he brief the president on something. lt. col. north: as i recall, yes . mr. nields: and occasionally you sent a memorandum recommending that he obtain the president's approval. lt. col. north: that is correct. mr. nields: and that is what you did in this case? lt. col. north: apparently so. those are the words i had typed on a piece of paper. mr. nields: because you specifically wanted, before proceeding on a matter of this degree of importance, to have
the president's approval? lt. col. north: yes. mr. nields: at any time did admiral poindexter tell you, don't send any more memos like this? i don't recall such an instruction. if i had been given it, i would have followed it. inre were times when we, both the case of admiral poindexter and mr. mcfarlane decided no more memoranda on certain subjects and there would be verbal briefings. mr. nields: that was not the case with these memoranda seeking diversion of -- lt. col. north: you refer to it as diversion. my use of webster leads me to believe that those were residuals. it toerted money and put
a better use. mr. nields: i am asking you whether you didn't continue to send memoranda seeking approval residualsr,s o whatever the word, for the benefit of the contras, up to the president for approval? lt. col. north: i did not send this to the president. this memorandum went to the national security adviser seeking he obtained the president's approval. this is a big difference. this is not a memoranda to the president. mr. nields: my question to you, isn't it true that you continued to send them up to the national security adviser seeking the president's approval? lt. col. north: it is my recollection that i did. mr. nields: and admiral poindexter never told you, stop sending those memoranda? lt. col. north: i do not recall the admiral saying that. it is entirely possible that that happened. mr. nields: if it had happened, you would have stopped sending
them, isn't that true? you just testified you sent them on five different occasions. lt. col. north: i testified that to my recollection, there were about five times when we thought we had an arrangement that would result in the release of american hostages and the opening of a dialogue with iran, and we thought the deal was sufficiently framed that we could proceed with it, and that i thought, because i don't have those records before me, that i sent memoranda seeking approval. that is what i think, and that is what i recall. was there ever a time when admiral poindexter said, don't send them up for the president's approval, just send them for my approval? lt. col. north: again, i don't recall such a conversation. mr. nields: in fact, isn't it
true that it was admiral poindexter that wanted you to send these memoranda up for the president to approve? lt. col. north: i don't recall admiral poindexter instructing me to do that. mr. nields: would you turn to exhibit two? mr. nields: do you have that in front of you? lt. col. north: i have what appears to be a note from admiral poindexter. mr. nields: and below that, there is a note from all over north. -- from oliver north. and that is to mr. mcfarlane. lt. col. north: i don't know how i can tell that from what i am looking at. mr. nields: if you look above the reply to the note, it says 2 rcm.
and it is dated the seventh of april, 1986. that is three days after the d ate of the terms of reference on exhibit one. you can check if you wish, or you can take my word for it. >> what is the question? mr. nields: i haven't asked the question yet. well, the question is, isn't this three days after the term of reference on exhibit one? lt. col. north: apparently it
is. makes reference on the first line? and it makes reference to the $15 million in line three? lt. col. north: that is correct. then in line six, it veads "per request of jmp, ha prepared a paper for our boss which lays out arrangements." lt. col. north: that is what it says. mr. nields: my question to you sir, doesn't that mean you are telling mr. mcfarlane that admiral poindexter, that is jmp, isn't it? lt. col. north: yes it is. mr. nields: he asked that you prepare a paper for the president. that is "our boss," isn't it? lt. col. north: he is indeed. -- nields: and letting out
and laying out the arrangements. that refers to the arrangement in exhibit one. lt. col. north: that is correct. mr. nields: far from telling you to stop sending memoranda up for the president's approval, admiral poindexter was specifically asking you to send memoranda up for the president's approval.